The Neurology of Memory & Anterograde and Retrograde Amnesia

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The Neurology of Memory & Anterograde and Retrograde Amnesia

Introduction

Memory is defined as “the mental capacity to encode, store, and retrieve information” (American Psychological Association, 2002). It is a part of the means by which humans function. The process of forming and recalling memories involves various complex neurological processes and disruptions to these processes can result in loss of memory or the inability to form new memories. Amnesia is a memory disorder, in which, due to trauma or a head injury, certain parts of the memory is inaccessible. The two main types of amnesia are anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia refers to the inability to create new memories (Mastin, 2010). “Retrograde
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Research has shown that there is “greater activation in the left inferior frontal and medial temporal lobes” (Stanford, 2006, p. 208) during the encoding of words which were later remembered as compared to those which were forgotten. The sensations perceived by sensory nerves are decoded in the hippocampus of the brain into a single experience (Mastin, 2010). The hippocampus analyses new information and compares and asssociates it with previously stored memory (Mastin, 2010). Human memory is associative in that new information can be remembered better if it can be associated to previously acquired, firmly consolidated information (Mastin, 2010). The various pieces of information are then stored in different parts of the brain (Mastin, 2010). Though the exact method by which this information is later identified and recalled has yet to be discovered, it is understood that ultra-short term sensory memory is converted into short term memory which can then later be consolidated into long term memory (Mastin, 2010).

Consolidation is the process by which an acquired memory is stabilized (Mastin, 2010). It begins when information is “bound into a memory trace by the hippocampus and related structures in the medial temporal lobes and diencephalon” (Nadel & Moscovitch, 1997, p. 217). This involves long term

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